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Can Probiotics Ease Eczema?

By

Jennifer Larson

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PHYSICIAN CONTRIBUTOR

Treating Moderate to Severe Eczema

Because eczema can vary greatly in severity, a thorough understanding of treatment options is important.
yogurt-and-fruit-with-spoon

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common chronic inflammatory disorder that can make your skin dry, scaly and very itchy. It typically develops in childhood, with as many as 90% of cases developing in children under age 5.

Common eczema treatments for mild cases include mild anti-itch lotions and creams. People with more severe cases of eczema might get some relief from a prescription-strength topical cream called a calcineurin inhibitor, which targets the immune system, or from oral or injected corticosteroids. Still others may opt for light therapy. But the stronger the treatment, the more likely it is to have side effects. And some eczema treatments have side effects that are serious enough to discourage long-term use.

Caring for sensitive skin and eczema can be challenging, but with the right tips and tricks, you can give your skin the love it needs.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 28, 2017

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Fortunately, people with eczema looking for a way to minimize their symptoms might have another treatment option on the horizon. A growing number of experts are examining probiotics as another potential treatment for eczema.

Understanding Probiotics

Probiotics are colonies of tiny live microorganisms that have a reputation as the “good bacteria” because of their ability to ward off or shorten the course of certain gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea. In fact, probiotics can contain several different types of bacteria, with the most common ones belonging to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups. Researchers believe there are several possible ways that they can benefit your body. For example, probiotics may help you maintain a healthy community of bacteria in your intestines that keeps your digestive system on track. Or they may somehow “outcompete” the bad bacteria or stimulate your immune system to react against undesirable invaders. Most experts agree that more research is needed to provide enough evidence to support the use of probiotics for specific health concerns.

The Popularity of Probiotics for Other Conditions

Many people are already turning to these foods and others rich in probiotics to address various health conditions. Probiotic supplements are available in small capsules to take orally, but there are also many natural ways to consume them. Foods containing probiotic bacteria are popular among people hoping to boost their immune and digestive systems. Many women also turn to probiotics to combat yeast infections.

You might already have tried a probiotic-rich food and not even realized it. Foods containing probiotic bacteria include:

  • Greek yogurt, which often contain more than one strain of probiotic bacteria

  • Kombucha, a fermented tea drink

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kimchi, a fermented vegetable dish

  • Kefir

  • Some cottage cheeses

  • Dark chocolate

Probiotics for Potential Eczema Prevention

Could probiotics also address the problem of eczema? Right now, the recommendations are mixed. Research suggests that consuming probiotics might help—but they might not, too. Currently, existing studies have focused on eczema prevention, not treatment.

Eczema tends to develop most frequently in babies and very young children. As a result, researchers tend to examine how they can prevent a child from developing eczema by examining the effect of giving probiotics to the following:

  • Women who are pregnant

  • Women who are breastfeeding

  • Babies or young children at risk for developing eczema or allergies

The World Allergy Organization (WAO) recently analyzed a group of studies involving probiotic use for eczema and allergic diseases. They hoped to determine if the research showed if taking probiotics would reduce the incidence of young children developing eczema.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 14, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Allen SJ, Jordan S, Storey M, et al. Probiotics in the prevention of eczema: a randomised controlled trial. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2014;99(11):1014-1019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4215350/
  2. Barthow C, Wickens K, Stanley T, et al. The Probiotics in Pregnancy Study (PiP Study): rationale and design of a double-blind randomised controlled trial to improve maternal health during pregnancy and prevent infant eczema and allergy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2016;16:133. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4891898/
  3. Eczema in children: Can prebiotics or probiotics help prevent it? Informed Health Online. Updated February 23, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072584/
  4. Health benefits of taking probiotics. Harvard Medical Center. http://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics
  5. Kuitunen M. Probiotics and Prebiotics in Preventing Food Allergy and Eczema. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2013;13(3):280-286. Accessed via Medscape. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/804455_2
  6. Rather IA, Bajpai VK, Kumar S, Lim J, Paek WK, Park Y-H. Probiotics and Atopic Dermatitis: An Overview. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016;7:507. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828648/

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